Thursday, September 21, 2006

Booklist : Tearjerkers

Who doesn't love a good booklist? They are a librarian's and teacher's boon, they introduce b
ooks you've never heard of -- they're great! Here at The Brookeshelf, I'd like to make it a point to put out a new booklist once a week. And here's the great part: if you Dear Readers know of a book that I missed that really ought to be on the list, you're welcome to leave a comment with the author, title, and brief description. Remember, the book must be appropriate for kids ages 0-14. And so, without much ado, let us go forth to survey this week's list: Tearjerkers

When I was in library school, my advisor told me a story about how she ran into the library, holding a copy of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and tearfully told the librarian that "it was the saddest book I've ever read, and can I have another one just like it please?" Sometimes kids just want a book that makes them cry a bit -- I call them "emotional books." Here's the list -- read 'em, take two Prozac, and call me in the morning.

  1. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Probably the one tearjerker for kids that’s withstood the test of time. Most movie versions have Sara Crewe’s father returning from the dead, but be aware: in the book he is really, truly dead. Will that be Puffs, or Kleenex?

  1. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Another riches-to-rags story, only set among Mexican immigrants in the Depression. Esperanza’s dad is killed by bandits. A rather romantic way to die, for a vintner.

  1. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Anybody who can make it through this tale of poverty, racism, and childhood illness without getting just a little misty-eyed has a heart of stone. Stone, I say!

  1. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

What is it with Newbery winners and dying? This one, set in the Depressino-era Dust Bowl, has its protagonist accidentally throwing flaming oil on her pregnant mother. If it weren’t so heartrending, I’d call it sadistic on the part of Hesse. As it is, it’s totally gripping.

  1. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

I actually avoided this one in grade school because my friends all said it was so sad. Then I grew up, became a librarian and found out the truth: it’s really, really, really sad. This one has a kid whose best friend dies for no particular reason. And yet it’s a totally wonderful book. How does that work, anyway?

  1. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Yeah. Paterson really knows how to pull the ol’ heartstrings. Gilly the foster child’s bumpy journey to finding a family just made me all wobbly inside. Bonus: probably the only children’s protagonist named after a character from Lord of the Rings.

  1. The Loner by Ester Weir

Like The Midwife’s Apprentice, this one’s about a child so abandoned that he does not even have a name. Unlike Apprentice, this one’s set in the Depression, and might even make Steinbeck cry. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, I’m planning a “Forgotten Bookshelf” review in a few days. Stay tuned. (I'll include a picture then, as well.)

  1. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

Gah – about every kid in my junior high used this book for the Oral Interp. Speech competition – simply because it got everyone to cry. The scene when they kill the pig is just – sooo sad! You’ll never eat bacon again . . . for three months.

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Remember the first time someone read this book to you? And when Charlotte the spider dies, didn’t you feel kind of betrayed? Katherine Paterson, queen of weepies, said herself that she always cries when reading this book to her kids – to the point of where the kids run and fetch tissues as soon as they get to page where Charlotte dies. (Hmmm. So that’s where she gets it.)

  1. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

See #8. Same thing, only this is with a dog. Er . . . they don’t eat the dog. They weren’t that desperate. Yet.

  1. Girlhearts Norma Fox Mazer

Imagine if The Gilmore Girls’ first season had ended with Lorelai Gilmore dying, leaving her cute, vulnerable teenage daughter all alone. You’d end up with this book, wouldn’t you?

  1. Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff

I don’t know why Pictures of Hollis Woods was a Newbery Honor, and this book wasn’t. This story of the Irish potato famine is the pinnacle of poignancy.

  1. Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

See my comments for #4. This rumination on a twelve-year-old facing mortality is just breathtaking. Kevin Henkes is a children’s literature GOD. I still can’t understand why it got beaten out by Despereaux for the Newbery. It’s about dying, people! Dying = Newbery Gold!!


Pooja said...

I just re-read LITTLE WOMEN and *weeped* when Jo rejected Laurie. No one dies in this book, but its a tearjerker nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This book was so sad to my little fourth-grade self. There must be something about those dead dog books...

Nancy said...


Well Little Women qualifies for the Beth scenes if nothing else.

Also, Harry Potter 5 and 6.

I can't remember, was Heidi a tearjerker?

Anne of Green Gables had its teary moments.

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